Monthly Archives: October 2013

Amazon changes the rules for free shipping

I shop at Amazon frequently to take advantage of its competitive prices (on most items) and its low threshold for free shipping. My latest shopping trip led to an unwelcome surprise. Amazon has raised the dollar amount of the minimum order you must place to get free shipping.

Look for the "FREE shipping on orders over $35" words near the top of Amazon listings.

Look for the “FREE shipping on orders over $35” words near the top of Amazon listings.

The company used to offer “free super saver shipping” on orders of $25 or more. Now, you must spend at least $35 to get your items shipped to you at no charge. In a Web announcement, Amazon says this is the first time in more than 10 years that it has changed the minimum order amount for free shipping. The announcement includes a sales pitch for Amazon Prime, which allows you to get “free” two-day shipping on orders of any size, if you pay a $79 annual subscription fee. Not exactly what I would call free shipping.

To find items that are eligible for free shipping, look for the words “FREE shipping on orders over $35” on the search results page or the product page (see photo above for example).

Keep in mind some items that are sold on Amazon but shipped by other retailers offer free shipping on orders less than $35.

If you don’t shop at Amazon frequently, you may have missed another trend in its free-shipping policy: the add-on item. Items labeled as add-ons are eligible for free shipping, but only after you already have $35 of merchandise in your cart. Amazon’s current explanation of add-on items is a bit confusing, but it appears you can add the items to a $25 order as well, but they may not be eligible for free shipping at that threshold. Examples include this Rubbermaid plastic magazine file. You can identify add-on items by the blue “Add-on Item” band near the “Add to cart” button or the explanation in the product description (see photo below for examples).

Look for the blue labels to identify Amazon add-on items.

Look for the blue labels to identify Amazon add-on items.

Sometimes, you may be a few cents away from free shipping and need a cheap item to finish off your order. If this is the case, check out my previous post on a neat tool that can help you find such items.

What do you think of Amazon’s new shipping threshold? Will it change how often you purchase items from this retailer?

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Filed under Business news, Cheap and free stuff, Saving money, Shopping tips

Home Depot online appliance purchase: a smooth experience delivered

After 11 years of faithful service, my washing machine bit the dust last weekend. A few hours of online research and some feedback from friends led me to choose a traditional-style machine with an agitator as its replacement. There aren’t a lot of models to choose from in this category, since most new washers are high-efficiency. Given my limited number of choices, I felt comfortable buying a washing machine online without seeing it in person, something I’ve never done.

I typically purchase appliances at Lowe’s, but Lowe’s couldn’t deliver the model I wanted until 9 days after my purchase, so I chose to purchase the same appliance at Home Depot. In a 2012 blog post, I explained what a ridiculous experience I had trying to buy an appliance online from Lowe’s. Thankfully, the Home Depot ordering process was 1,000 times easier. I started my shopping at Ebates.com, so I could earn 3% cash back on my purchase. After clicking the Ebates link to the Home Depot website, I added the appliance to my virtual cart. The only downside of the Home Depot appliance ordering process is that the company requires you to purchase new washing machine hoses, as it refuses to install your new washer with old hoses. I was planning to do this anyway, but it may be frustrating for others. I don’t believe you have to purchase the hoses from Home Depot, but you must have new hoses on hand. You can read about all the Home Depot’s appliance delivery requirements online.

During checkout, I was shown a calendar of available delivery dates and selected the one I wanted. An online notice (and follow-up email) from Home Depot informed me that I would receive a phone call the day before the delivery date and be given a delivery window. After that, I successfully completed my online purchase.

Sure enough, someone called me on Tuesday to let me know what time on Wednesday the washing machine would be delivered. The next day, the delivery driver called in advance of the delivery and even asked if he could come early. From the time the truck arrived to the time the delivery crew left with my old washing machine, only 20 minutes elapsed! I immediately washed a couple of loads of laundry and confirmed everything worked properly. The delivery drivers were courteous, and nothing was damaged during the delivery.

The Home Depot offers free appliance delivery and removal of your old appliance, while competitors like H.H. Gregg and Sears do not. Plus, Home Depot’s regular price is the same as Lowe’s for the washing machine I purchased. As I write this, it’s actually $45 less, because Home Depot is offering 10% off all appliance purchases of $397 or more.

Overall, my online appliance-buying experience was much better at Home Depot than at Lowe’s, and the delivery was icing on the cake. I will definitely consider Home Depot when another appliance needs replacement.

Where’s your favorite place to purchase appliances and why?

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Filed under Customer service, Shopping tips, Uncategorized